There haven’t been many opportunities for newcomers to play in the Edmonton Eskimos backfield this season.
Not even a Week 5 concussion was able to keep veteran running back C.J. Gable from missing a start over the eight games Edmonton has played so far. But that’s all about to change Saturday against the visiting Montreal Alouettes (7 p.m., TSN, ESPN+, 630 CHED).
Rookie Shaq Cooper has been practising with the first team all week in Gable’s absence with an undisclosed injury and is set to make his first Canadian Football League start. The five-foot-10, 190-pound Fort Hays State product has been on the Eskimos practice roster up to this point.
“It’s a great feeling. With this opportunity, I’m going to do the best I can, leave it all on the field and go out there and do my job,” said the 25-year-old native of Coral Gables, Fla. “C.J., he’s tough, man. If he didn’t break anything, he’d be playing.”
Cooper is getting the call against a last-place Alouettes club the Eskimos handily dispatched 44-23 in their biggest show of offence on the season. But with the bar set at over 500 yards of offence, he can’t exactly take any snaps off as the Eskimos look to get back in the win column and improve upon their 5-3 record.
“We’ve still got to try not to overlook the team,” he said. “Still come out and play hard and fast and get the job done.”Back outside
The Eskimos returned outdoors to practice on the field Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday, after having been forced inside by an air-quality advisory a day earlier due to smoke from B.C. forest fires.
“I love practising on a full-sized football field, for sure. It was good to be outside,” said Reilly, adding his eyes took the brunt of it Thursday with some watering and itchiness. “You get used to it a little bit once you get out here and it hasn’t been that bad today.
“Yesterday, I woke up and it looked like a post-apocalyptic movie, I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but we can’t really complain. We’re dealing with the smoke, we’re not dealing with the fires.”
In 2015, the Eskimos played a pre-season and a regular-season game in Fort McMurray, which would be ravaged by wildfire the following year.
“Hopefully, that doesn’t end up coming our way, but it’s just a reminder of how big those fires are, how many of them that there are,” Reilly said. “Dealing with a little bit of smoke is what it is, but I just hope that all the people over there stay safe and there are a lot of people who are going to lose a lot of stuff.
“You just hope that the impact isn’t as great as it probably will be.”Fake kick, real catch
Duke Williams and Derel Walker can rest easy.
The two Eskimos receivers won’t be bumped out of Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on the Canadian Football League’s receiving-yards list by perennial all-star Almondo Sewell anytime soon.
Sewell is, after all, a defensive lineman by trade. And one of the, if not the best interior guys going.
But that didn’t stop him from making the first catch of his eight-year CFL career last week, earning 16 yards and a first down on a fake field-goal that saw Eskimos quarterback and holder Danny O’Brien also make his first pass in green and gold.
“Reception No. 1, I had to wait a long time, too. Seven years to get that, but we definitely would have taken the win over anything,” said Sewell, a six-foot-four, 288-pound Akron product.
But 33-year-old native of Buff Bay, Jamaica, wasn’t always on defence.
“All the way up until college, I played running back the whole time, so it’s not my first time catching the ball,” said Sewell, who doesn’t regret switching positions. “I hated getting hit. I can’t stand to get hit. I hate everything about it. It bothers me, getting hit, so I decided to start playing more linebacker, got recruited to college and from linebacker straight to D-end, and from D-end to D-tackle.
“It was a good play. Danny O’Brien also got his first completion so we had a little moment. Now we’ve got to go back to winning.”
Email: [email protected]
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
By LORNE GUNTER
Let’s remember two things about the debate over more and more bike lanes eating up room for vehicles on city streets.
First, the impetus for more bike lanes is the belief among pious cycle commuters and “progressive” planners and councillors that bikes are a morally superior form of transportation.
They’re more environmentally friendly than passenger cars. They’re more “human” in scale. They encourage more cooperation, less aggression. They make us better people. (I’ve had pro-bike activists make all of those claims on behalf of two-wheeled transportation.)
How can the rest of us not feel compelled to bow and back out of the way as one of these god’s-gift-to-transportation passes by? We should feel blessed that these deities of the roadways deign to share their planet with we driving sinners, at all.
And the second thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of Edmontonians will never, ever use a bike to get to work, school, the store or a restaurant.
The two riding-ist cities on the continent – Portland, Oregon and Davis, Calif. – have more biking infrastructure than we do, to be sure. And yet, depending on whose figures you use, both cities have only between four per cent and six per cent commuters who cycle regularly.
And what else do they have that we don’t? Mild winters.
The five biggest impediments to mass cycling in Edmonton are November, December, January, February and March.
Vancouver, which has much milder winters than we do (although not as mild as Portland or Davis), still has under two per cent of commuters who commute by bicycle.
We have about 1.2 per cent.
The point is, when you hear politicians, planners and cycling lobbyists pitch more bike lanes at the cost of residents losing their on-street parking, or bike lanes to narrow major commuter routes such as 109 Street south of the river, this is largely justifiable to them because in their own minds private vehicles are the lowest lifeform on our streets.
To their way of thinking drivers should be willing – maybe even grateful – to defer to buses, LRT and bicycles, (even fancy planters and park benches) regardless of whether it doubles the length of their commute, or their trip to their kids’ school or sports, or their run to the store.
Car owners should happily relinquish the street in front of their homes, even if they have nowhere else to park or even if they need access because of a disability. After all, don’t they want to help cyclists save the planet and make our neighbourhoods more personal?
This summer, after a couple of serious vehicle-cyclist collisions in Toronto, the former head city planner who is now a candidate for mayor, insisted that “the car threatens our ability to grow and become a stronger more innovative and inclusive global city.”
That’s pure moralizing. It’s based on preference, not practicality.
This is the same bureaucrat, Jennifer Keesmaat, who firmly believes “bike lanes can move 10 times as many people per square kilometer as vehicle lanes.”
Of course, that’s a bogus comparison. You move commuters over distance (kilometres) not area (square kilometres). But it’s also bogus because “can” and “do” are hardly the same thing.
Theory shouldn’t matter as much as pragmatism in transportation planning. However, increasingly in Edmonton and elsewhere, the bikes-are-superior theoreticians are in charge of planning.
Is it better in Garneau and Old Strathcona that the city is planning bike lanes on secondary streets rather than main streets? For sure.
But even if they double or triple the budget and the number of lanes, what are the chances we’ll get to Portland numbers? And if we do, will the cost and intrusions be justified from a practical standpoint?
Kenny Stafford can’t look ahead to Saturday’s game against the Montreal Alouettes without seeing into his past.
Whether he wants to or not.
The Edmonton Eskimos receiver has thrice been a part of La Belle Province’s Canadian Football League club, but all three stops were either less-than memorable or something he would rather forget entirely.
“Montreal hasn’t been too nice to me in my career,” said Stafford, 28. “In 2013, I played one game in the Arena League and got signed to Montreal. In training camp, I had a 75-yard touchdown in the first pre-season game, got released after the game.”
He returned a second time to play out the 2014 season, only to become the Alouettes’ contribution in the Fred Stamps trade with Edmonton.
“I got a lot of heat for that even though I didn’t know I was getting traded,” Stafford said of the previous Eskimos fan-favourite receiver. “I told people, ‘Give me a chance before you jump to conclusions. Just give me the opportunity.’ And I never looked back from there.
“It was a great feeling. (Former Eskimos general manager) Ed Hervey was the one that made the trade, and for him to believe in me, for him to see what I always saw but not the whole league saw, he saw someone who could compete, who could come in and be a high-level guy. And I thank him for that, because he really opened the door for me, to be completely honest.”
After living up to the rather large shoes he was expected to fill by posting career numbers of 47 catches for 732 yards and a team-leading nine receiving touchdowns in 18 games on the way to the 2015 Grey Cup championship, Stafford headed back to Montreal in free agency.
This time, it was his choice, as he looked to join up with his cousin, Duron Carter — whose name came up in Montreal earlier this week as a possible landing spot after being cut, out of the blue, by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
And well before that season was over, the pair ended up getting unceremoniously released following a heated exchange with their quarterback in practice.
“I was just coming off a Grey Cup win, knowing here they had to pay people,” Stafford said. “And me, looking to get a pay-day, I knew I would have to go somewhere else.
“I had opportunities to go to the NFL. The Tennessee Titans offered me a contract, but with no guaranteed money, so I didn’t take the futures deal because I was 25 at the time. Financially, I made the right decision. I was thinking, ‘What’s the quickest way for me to get back to the Grey Cup?
“I got paid and then had the debacle. We were riddled by injury and a lot of things happened, and then I ended up getting released. That was a blessing in disguise.”
While he had to wait out much of 2017 on the Eskimos practice squad, Stafford has shown his career is back on track this year in the city where he’s found the most success in his career. He currently sits seventh overall with 515 receiving yards heading into Saturday’s game (7 p.m., TSN, ESPN+, 630 CHED), which marks the halfway point of Edmonton’s season.
For anyone who’s counting, that is 70 more regular-season yards than he earned in all three of his Montreal stops combined.
“Alread,y I have more yardage than I had last year,” Stafford said. “I’m just happy. The coaches trust me, I’m just trying to instil trust in them every day.
“This is home.”
In and out: RB C.J. Gable sat out of practice for the third day in a row and will not play against the Alouettes on Saturday … The Als will sit starting quarterback Johnny Manziel, the club announced Thursday afternoon, after undergoing concussion protocol following his last game. That will mark the second time this season a team for whom he plays visited Commonwealth Stadium without the former Heisman Trophy winner seeing the field … Happy birthday to Eskimos WR Bryant Mitchell, who turned 26 on Thursday.
Email: [email protected]
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Mike Reilly is in danger of entering Connor McDavid territory.
Last calendar year, Edmonton’s top two pro sports teams had the Hart Trophy winner in the National Hockey League in McDavid and the Most Outstanding Player Award in the Canadian Football League in Reilly.
McDavid led the league in scoring again last season but didn’t win the Hart again because the Oilers missed the playoffs. Reilly is leading his league in numbers again, but the Eskimos have already lost three games and Bo Levi Mitchell has yet to lose a game quarterbacking the Calgary Stampeders.
One difference between McDavid and Reilly when it comes to the ultimate hardware in their league is the definition involved, however.
In the NHL, the Hart goes to the Most Valuable Player. In the CFL, it goes to the Most Outstanding Player.
As the Eskimos hit the halfway mark of the season Saturday against the Montreal Alouettes, it’s impossible to suggest that Reilly is not having an even more outstanding season this year than he had last year, when he registered a career-high 5,830 in passing yardage.
Reilly goes into this game with 2,622, and this is an Alouettes team he put 415 yards in the air against two games ago in Montreal, throwing for four touchdown passes and rushing for another.
But there’s another set of numbers in play that hasn’t gained much notice until now. Reilly has put himself in the hunt for a Doug Flutie record.
Only Flutie has put together the combination of touchdown passes thrown and touchdowns scored rushing to produce more than 50 in a season. And he’s done it four times.
Reilly goes into the Montreal game with a league-leading 16 touchdown passes thrown and a league-leading seven more personally carrying the ball into the end zone for a combined total of 23.
Flutie twice registered 52, once hit 55 and owns the record of 56 from 1994 with 48 TDs by air and eight by land.
Matt Dunigan and Khari Jones hold the record for quarterbacks not named Flutie with 47 with Kent Austin hitting 46, Anthony Calvillo with 45 and Henry Burris with 43 and 42. Last season, Reilly threw 30 touchdown passes and carried for 12 more to reach a combined total of 42.
Reilly said he finds that stat fascinating.
“Flutie? That doesn’t surprise me,” said the Eskimos quarterback. “In our case, I think it’s a byproduct of our situation this year. We seem to get down to the one-yard line a lot. I’m sure Doug had quite a few 10-yard-plus TD runs. Mine are all the one-yard variety. We happen to have an offensive line that’s pretty proficient in that situation. I happen to be the one who carries it in. It could be anybody who lined up behind those guys and sort of fell in.
“I’m not too impressed by that part of it. What really impresses me is that Flutie was able to do it four times. That’s incredible. That just shows how good he was.”
Reilly said it speaks to the kind of quarterback you need in this league. Reilly, as most Eskimo fans know by now, is outstanding when it comes to talking about the game and terrible when it comes to talking about himself.
Mention the fact he produced a career-high each of the last two years and has a shot at 6,000 this season, and his answer is predictable.
“You have to be blessed with a great offensive line that gives you time,” he said. “The running back in the offence has to be able to drop back and block. But he has to run the ball, too. And you have to have great wide receivers, which we obviously do.
“I don’t look at the statistic difference, I look at the things we’re able to do and how dynamic we are.”
Obviously, Reilly looks at these numbers as team numbers. With that in mind, I ask him how 6,000-yards passing would stack up this year as a team accomplishment.
“Honestly, it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s about the Grey Cup. Every year, it’s about the Grey Cup but especially this year with the Grey Cup here. If we’re rushing for 300 yards a game and I’m only throwing the ball five times a game the rest of the year but we get to play the Grey Cup game in this stadium, it would be great.”
As for the McDavid scenario, Reilly refers to another superstar in another sport.
“You have LeBron James, who in my opinion, is the best player in the NBA, but he gets to the final and plays against a better team. That’s why we don’t care about individual success. It takes a whole team.”
That’s totally true and there are 14 Eskimo banners and five Oiler banners hanging in this town to prove that.
But there have also been some exceptional players who put up staggering statistics. Edmonton fans have had a lot of fun with figures over the years, too. And Reilly is building his own set of numbing numbers right now.
E-mail: [email protected]
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
NO CASH COW
Who are these people who stand behind photo radar vehicles and hold up signs warning other motorists of their location? Do you think you’re cute or funny? You’re not helping to make our roads safer. These drivers are speeding and driving recklessly. They deserve a ticket. A big ticket. If they were driving up and down your street like that I’m sure you’d want to put a stop to it. Or would you encourage that as well? Let’s use a little common sense here.
(If there weren’t concerns about how the city used photo radar, and whether it was being used for revenue generation and not for safety, then you may have a point.)
With all the smoke in the air and city council’s propensity to waste money, I’m wondering why they haven’t come up with a brilliant plan like placing fans at every street corner to blow the smoke out. They’re really good and spending billions and getting no results.
OUT OF ORDER
The Victoria city council should have never been allowed to remove the statue of our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. City councils are elected officials (politicians), and therefore their mandate is to represent the people. In a real democracy, such atrocities are not acceptable. It is paramount that such decisions remain with the people. But our hysteric leftists are obviously not interested in democracy. They think of themselves as enlightened, progressive thinkers. They are not! They’ve become the fascists that do not tolerate any other opinion but their own. Their claims of tolerance and inclusiveness are nothing but defamatory statements. And, oh yeah, what are you going to do with Queen Victoria and all the others that were involved in this part of history? Will you be removing their commemorations, too? When is all this idiocy coming to an end?
(Once you start, where do you stop?)
Hopefully the RCMP put out that “sacred fire” at Camp Cloud in Burnaby. The smoke is killing me!
(Surely there was a fire ban.)
WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?
Re: U.K. driver being charged with terrorist-related offences in London after pedestrians mowed down. Isn’t it amazing that most every other country in the world has no problem calling a terrorist attack an act of terrorism. We have numerous examples in Canada (recent Danforth shooting and Edmonton pedestrian and police officer injuries last year) of similar attacks, yet our government refuses to acknowledge it. Details of many crimes are not released. Who exactly are they trying to protect?
(Yes, it is odd.)
Re: Wildfires. Smoky the Bear and his ilk are responsible for all these forest fires. Suppressing natural fires allows for the buildup on tons of fuel and given dry weather, lightning and careless people, we have raging forest fires. But wait! Indigenous people knew the danger and regularly set fires when conditions were right, to burn off these combustibles and in the process allowed wildlife populations to flourish. On a positive note, the fires that burn this year won’t burn next year.
(We’ll trust the experts on this.)
DAMN THE DEBT
There were a couple of fascinating op-eds. Mark Bonokoski — Taxes burying Canucks alive — only told a portion of the story. The real tragedy is that despite the burgeoning rate of taxation, governments are borrowing additional billions to cover daily expenses. The interest on the increasing debt requires ever-higher taxation, with no end in sight. Matthew Lau’s — Climate Change data is wildly overestimated — shows the idiocy of pretending that “climate change” is a crisis that requires drastic government reaction. No, the real and impending crisis is the debt crisis, which will be more immediate and a lot harder to mitigate than a degree or two higher global temperature in 2118.
John H. MacLean
(Surely there’s some sort of tax governments could use to ward off the debt crisis?)
Here’s an idea of reconciliation between us Canadians. The media could put a stop to the segregation and division between Canada and these so called First Nations. How about Canadians of aboriginal background or Aboriginal Canadians. Max Bernier is correct in stating that Canada has fractured into diverse little tribes. Sadly, there are no more Canadians.
(Pretty sure he wasn’t talking about our Indigenous neighbours.)
NICE GOING, VICTORIA
Congrats city council and citizens of Victoria, you have finally jumped the shark. All that is left is to rip up the rails west from the Alberta border, denounce your obligations under Confederation, and rename your once proud city. History has always started yesterday for progressives and SJWs. You don’t learn from history, you deny it, hoping that the truth will magically disappear. Regardless, the 1953 Trans Mountain Pipeline will still provide oil to fuel your green hypocrisy, you can continue to pump your sewage into the Pacific Ocean, and virtual signal on Twitter about your latest crisis du jour to your hearts content. Denying history does not erase it, and actions always have consequences, especially the ones that are not thought through.
(Such heroes of political correctness.)
What gives with the media? Almost every day we are swamped with pictures of Justin Trudeau either crying, apologizing, hugging or selfieing and Jagmeet Singh in his latest turban (he must have hundreds) extolling his socialist agenda (tax, tax, tax). However, where is Andrew Scheer? Is he being blacklisted or as a man with principals not worthy of the media’s attention?
(Perhaps he needs a better PR team.)
PROUD OF NAMEI was born in December 1950 and my proud parents christened me Macdonald Neil Coleman in honor of our first prime minister. I go by my middle name but that first name is on all official documents. Should I apply for a legal name change to help the forces of Truth and Reconciliation? Should I start using my first name as an act of defiance against political correctness? Or should I continue to use my middle name and laugh at the silliness going on in Canada? Macdonald Neil Coleman (You never can tell these days.) Do you have an opinion? Submit your letters here or email [email protected]
By LORNE GUNTER
I think it’s funny that Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is in a tug-o-war with her party’s national leader, Jagmeet Singh, over which of them is more elitist and which more working-class on the subject of oil and gas development.
The answer, of course, is they are both ideologically driven activists whose ideas and policies have and will continue to scare away tens of billions of investment dollars from Canada’s energy sector.
On Tuesday, oil analysts Wood Mackenzie Ltd. reported that international energy firms are poised to invest nearly $300 billion in new projects around the world over the next three years, but very little of that in Canada.
That’s not Singh’s doing. He has no power over policy, regulations or taxes yet. The unattractiveness of Canada to energy investors is the direct result of the anti-oil climate created by the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa and the New Democrats in Alberta and B.C.
The dispute between Notley and Singh has been simmering ever since Singh became federal NDP leader 10 months ago. It came to a head late last week when Singh waded into the Liberal-created Canada-Saudi tiff.
The gaffe-prone Singh’s suggestion that the Trudeau government punish the Saudis by replacing the oil Canada buys from them (around $4 billion a year) with oil from some other despotic, human rights-abusing foreign autocracy has been widely (and rightly) ridiculed.
Canada itself, of course, has more than enough oil to meet all its domestic demand if only anti-oil activists like Singh would let pipelines be built to carry our oil from where it’s extracted to where it’s needed.
Singh later tried to walk back his Saudi foul-up by saying such matters weren’t his “highest priority.” Okay, so maybe he could identify for us what are his high priorities so we don’t hold him to an elevated intellectual standard on all the issues he doesn’t care that much about.
Notley, of course, fired back at Singh’s anti-pipeline stance by saying, “I am a New Democrat that comes from the part of the party” that focuses “on jobs for regular working people.” She added that for Singh to put environmental policy ahead of people was “very elitist.”
Now it’s our turn to laugh at Notley’s contention that somehow her policies – such as “social licence” – have been good for the jobs of ordinary Albertans.
Ask all the oil-field and coal-plant workers who’ve been laid off since she took over.
Of course, when Notley was in opposition and no one, including her, imagined she would ever be premier, she was like Singh. She routinely called for greater environmental regulations and limits on the growth of our oil and gas sector, particularly the oilsands.
In a speech in Peace River in 2011, Notley even insisted that “sometimes public interest is better served by limiting the profitability of that business,” by which she meant the energy industry.
In 2008, one of Notley’s then constituency workers, Denise Ogonoski, repelled from the roof of Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre during a Tory fundraiser unfurling a “Stop the Tar Sands” banner. Also in 2008, Notley told the newspaper Fort McMurray Today “The NDP wants what most Albertans want: for the Tories to stop issuing new tar sands development leases until environmental health and economic assessments of the region are completed.”
Yes, Notley has been a vocal supporter of the Trans Mountain pipeline – recently. But she opposed Northern Gateway and has been lukewarm, at best, to Keystone XL. It’s hard to shake the impression her current Trans Mountain support is anything more than political butt-saving.
Singh would disastrous for Alberta, for sure. But it’s not as if Notley and her policies have saved Alberta workers and their jobs.
The red and white street car slowly made its way south, and then swinging east Monday afternoon just before 1:30 p.m. It passed the garage on street at Fort Edmonton Park, coasting gently into a parking spot close white bench on the south side of the street car tracks.
A tall man stood, with a wide smile, at the front of the train, gently pulling the throttle into a soft stop.
Then, for the final time over a 17-year run, Roger Page opened the front door to let passengers off.
For Page, it was the last stop.
“This was the chance for my last ride because I’m heading for holidays to Vancouver Island soon,” Page said in his charismatic style of conversation.
But there’s another structural reason. Fort Edmonton Park is closing for a couple of years while a mammoth expansion program will turn the pristine and pacific part of our city into something bigger and better.
“They say it could be two of three years,” Page said, adjusting his yellow and blue hat.
“I just celebrated my 75th birthday, so you never know what the next few years will bring.
“But, I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful time here,” said Page.
Page’s story of coming to the Fort reads like a history itself.
He grew up in Montreal. His dad worked for Texaco and the family transferred to Edmonton. In 1951.
“It’s interesting, because 1951 was the last year the street cars ran in Edmonton, so I never got to ride in one.”
But Page covered hundreds of thousands of kilometers of the city’s streets in his 34-year career with the Edmonton Transit System. He drove, inspected and instructed.
When retirement rolled around for Page 17 years ago, he still wanted to keep driving folks around.
“I heard about the street car at Fort Edmonton,” he said. “I thought there was finally a chance for me to drive a street car.’
He says his picture on No. 42 has literally gone around the world.
“It has been great to meet people from different countries and hear about their countries — and, share with them a little about mine.”
Page has volunteered about 10 shifts a season, from the time Fort Edmonton Park opens in on thee May 24 long weekend until Labour Day.
He said this season has been busier for the street car than normal since the iconic steam locomotive — The 107, known to her closest friends — is not running because its shop is undergoing repairs.
“I love the kids,” said Page.
“Just the other day one little child said he knows all about the future, but doesn’t know about the past,” he said. “I thought that was really neat to hear that from a young person.
“And, that’s one of the really special things of Fort Edmonton Park,” said Page.
After our visit, Page stood up and walked east with his wife Cheryl, across the streetcar tracks after hundreds of rides and smiles.
And sharing our city’s deep, rich history.
A lot of good the No Smoking signs around Commonwealth Stadium have done this week.
With an air quality warning in effect Wednesday due to smoke from British Columbia wildfires, the Edmonton Eskimos were chased inside to practice in the confines of the indoor fieldhouse.
And if conditions don’t improve, Saturday’s game against the visiting Montreal Alouettes (7 p.m., TSN, ESPN+, 630 CHED) may have to be rescheduled.
“If we’re not allowed to practise out in it right now and if it doesn’t get any better, I don’t know what else we’re going to do,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “So I’ll let that be up to the league, how they’re going to handle that, but we’ll do whatever they say.
“But obviously, it was bad enough out there today that we were advised not to go out in it. So we’ll just see what it’s like come game time. We’ll show up ready to play, and if we can’t, we can’t.”
A thick haze hung over the downtown skyline as the Eskimos kicked off their regularly scheduled two-hour-and-20 minute practice. But as the sun rose Thursday morning, it cast a dull orange hue that seemed almost eerie.
“I woke up, I thought my alarm was an hour early because it was so dark out. It was scary,” said middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt. “That’s wild, it was a little bit of a freaky day.
“I’m glad we got to come inside because that air, I’m not trying to breathe that all day.”
The smoke was noticeable enough just walking around outdoors, let alone running patterns and performing drills on field.
“I’m assuming you’re not supposed to breath air that’s out there right now,” Maas said. “You’re breathing in more air than normal when you’re huffing and puffing and exerting more energy.
“I get it, I understand it, and we’re fortunate enough to have a building like this that we’re able to practice in and get work in.”
In his 18 years in the Canadian Football League, Maas said he’s never seen anything like it before.
“It’s pretty remarkable, to be quite honest with you,” he said. “I feel bad for where it’s coming from, I know they’re dealing with a lot more issues than we are here, just with the air quality.
“So it’s unfortunate. We’re dealing with it the best way we can.”
It wasn’t the welcome linebacker Adam Konar hoped for having returned to practice this week after suffering a concussion in the season opener.
“It’s pretty tough breathing out there in the smoke, so to come inside is actually a pretty nice break for everyone’s lungs. Especially for me,” said Konar. “It’s been kind of flaring up my asthma a little bit, but it’s nothing major.
“Just take a couple inhalers and you’re good.”
Having grown up in B.C.’s lower mainland, Konar has seen his fair share of forest-fire smoke.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the smoke this bad, honestly,” he said. “Hopefully, the weather kind of clears up throughout the week.”
After spending the past two seasons in the East Division between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Tanner Doll has come home.
The six-foot, 221-pound long-snapper from St. Albert was signed by the Eskimos on Tuesday.
“It’s good to have that depth,” Maas said. “He’s also played linebacker for us, and with our inability to stay healthy at that position at times, it’s nice to have a guy in-house that can do that.”
The 25-year-old has been placed on the active roster and will likely get in on special teams Saturday.
“It’s great. You dream about that growing up in Edmonton,” Doll said of playing for his hometown team, which he and his father had tickets to see take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 2, after being cut by Ottawa in training camp. “But then I got picked up by Hamilton.
“For the past three years, I’ve lined up on the other sideline. It was still a great thrill playing in Commonwealth, growing up watching the games here, but now I get to line up in the green and gold.”
In and out: RB C.J. Gable sat out of practice for the second day in a row … The Eskimos placed CB Arjen Colquhoun back on the six-game injured list, where he started the 2018 season. The second-year Michigan State product initially came off the list to play the last two weeks, but was limited to special-teams work.
Email: [email protected]
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Johnny Manziel didn’t practice with the Alouettes for a second straight day in Montreal.
The Als indicated they are out when it comes to acquiring receiver Duron Carter after his release from the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Good seats are still available for Saturday’s game against the last-place 1-7 Als at Commonwealth Stadium.
Maybe the Eskimos should consider a last-minute ‘Guaranteed Win Night’ promotion.
I mean, think about it.
If Jason Maas gets the desired effect from his announcement that he intends to make changes to his own discipline issues on the sidelines in an effort to eliminate penalties, this should be a blowout.
Two games ago in Montreal, the Eskimos took 17 penalties for 191 yards and won 44-23 in Montreal.
Quarterback Mike Reilly passed for 415 yards, threw for four touchdowns and ran for another TD himself.
Duke Williams, Derel Walker and Kenny Stafford combined to produce 298 yards in pass receptions, Kwaku Boateng had three sacks and the team six. The Eskimos dominated the time of possession 35:11 to 24:49
On Saturday, they’re home in a snarly mood after gassing a 20-10 lead last week in Vancouver and losing 31-23 to allow the B.C. Lions to remain in the playoff picture.
With three losses already this season, the Eskimos have suddenly placed themselves in a position of not providing themselves with a home playoff game in a year when the 106th Grey Cup game will be played here.
This is a team that heads into the Saturday 7 p.m. game needing to start playing 60-minute football games and establishing themselves as the force and a team to beat like everybody expected them to be.
“When we put it all together, we’re going to be dangerous,” said Walker. “When we cut our penalties down from 14 to maybe five, we’re going to be a lot better off. We want to come out and dominate at every position, particularly at the receiver position,” he said of the area where Williams and Walker go into the game ranked 1-2 in the league with 759 and 734 yards, respectively.
Middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who will play his 100th Canadian Football League game on Saturday, has been around long enough to figure he knows the way it works.
“We’ve seen for a lot of years now that it’s team that grows the most during the season that raises the Grey Cup at the end of the season,” he said. “It’s not the team that dominates the regular season or has the hottest start. It’s who grows and who learns that will raise the Cup.”
A lot of focus has been on penalties, but not playing 60-minute games has been just as big of a problem.
“Absolutely,” said Sherritt. “You let your guard down for a quarter as you saw in B.C., you can dominate three quarters and lose one and lose the game.”
The Eskimos have three losses already this season, but so far, they haven’t lost two in a row and figure if they keep that going throughout the schedule, they’ll be playing a playoff game at home.
To lose two in a row, when the second game looks like a speed bump, could send their season skidding into the ditch with an away game in Hamilton followed by the back-to-back Labour Day games against the undefeated Calgary Stampeders. So there’s that as well.
“There’s been great energy out here and we expect to play well” said head coach Jason Maas. “That’s just the mindset that you have went you work hard and prepare hard. You expect results. That’s what our mindset is right now.”
When you beat a team by 21 on the road and yet take as many penalties as they did in Montreal, you’d figure the Eskimos have to be looking to put the boots to that team.
“No question, the last time we played them, there was room for improvement in the penalty department,” said Maas. “There was also improvement for the way we played. So we’re just looking to play a complete game, become more disciplined and look to be better on all fronts going into this one.”
Maas said he is not concerned by it being a so-called ‘trap’ game.
“Nope. We don’t concern ourselves with that kind of thinking,” he said. “We work extremely hard here no matter who we play. We realize it’s professional football. Each week, you play against professional athletes who get coached well and play hard.
“The least of our worries are about where they are in the standings and what type of team they are.
“We’re concerned about ourselves and getting better and playing good football week in and week out. When you concern yourselves with how you prepare, you don’t worry about the opponent as much.”
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